HOSPITAL staff have been threatened with disciplinary action if they refuse to wear a face mask, the Gazette can reveal.

In a letter sent to all Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) staff at Basingstoke, Andover and Winchester hospitals, seen by the Gazette, staff were told they could face disciplinary action for refusing to comply with mask-wearing rules.

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The letter, sent by the Employment Relations Team, has the date retracted but refers to guidance issued by NHS England on June 1, 2022 regarding the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to manage the risk of Covid.

A subsequent Freedom of Information request to HHFT has confirmed that the guidance in the letter is still relevant and that staff could still face disciplinary action for not wearing a face mask. 

It confirmed that while the trust does not have a specific face mask wearing policy, it is incorporated into the trust's Standard Precautions Policy. 

The latest advice issued to staff regarding face masks was sent in October 2022 and said: "It is no longer mandatory to wear a face mask in non-clinical areas (offices, meeting spaces) however they are mandatory in corridors and clinical areas."

Asked whether staff would be disciplined for not complying with the current face mask wearing policy, the trust responded: "Yes, if there was no underlying condition and it was refused without any medical reason. This guidance was distributed to all staff by letter in June 2022."

An extract from the guidance sent by the trust said: “Colleagues are required to follow all trust policies and procedures in undertaking their duties, including those relating to PPE and infection prevention control measures. 

"Where a colleague refuses to do so and/or repeatedly refuses to comply with a reasonable management instruction, without appropriate grounds for doing so, the trust reserves the right to take further action, including through the Management of Conduct (Disciplinary) Policy.”

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The letter sent to staff said: “This letter is a final response to all concerns and questions raised regarding the wearing of face masks at the trust.”

The trust confirmed that no member of staff has faced disciplinary action for not complying with face mask wearing rules. 

A spokesperson for HHFT said: "As you would expect at an acute hospital, mask-wearing in certain areas is a requirement. Outside of these areas, staff are reminded of the need to limit the spread of viruses and colds by wearing a mask if they have minor cold-like symptoms, or remaining at home if suffering from respiratory or flu like symptoms."